Temperature and electron density dependence of spin relaxation in GaAs/AlGaAs quantum well
 Lifen Han^{1},
 Yonggang Zhu^{1},
 Xinhui Zhang^{1}Email author,
 Pingheng Tan^{1},
 Haiqiao Ni^{1} and
 Zhichuan Niu^{1}
DOI: 10.1186/1556276X684
© Han et al; licensee Springer. 2011
Received: 12 September 2010
Accepted: 12 January 2011
Published: 12 January 2011
Abstract
Temperature and carrier densitydependent spin dynamics for GaAs/AlGaAs quantum wells (QWs) with different structural symmetries have been studied by using timeresolved Kerr rotation technique. The spin relaxation time is measured to be much longer for the symmetrically designed GaAs QW comparing with the asymmetrical one, indicating the strong influence of Rashba spinorbit coupling on spin relaxation. D'yakonovPerel' mechanism has been revealed to be the dominant contribution for spin relaxation in GaAs/AlGaAs QWs. The spin relaxation time exhibits nonmonotonicdependent behavior on both temperature and photoexcited carrier density, revealing the important role of nonmonotonic temperature and density dependence of electronelectron Coulomb scattering. Our experimental observations demonstrate good agreement with recently developed spin relaxation theory based on microscopic kinetic spin Bloch equation approach.
Introduction
Spin dynamics and the related physics in semiconductors have drawn much attention in the past years because of its importance to realize novel spinelectronic devices [1]. In recent years, electron spin relaxation in many types of materials, especially in low dimensional IIIV group semiconductor heterostructures, has been studied extensively both theoretically and experimentally [1]. The relevant spin relaxation mechanisms, such as the ElliottYafet, BirAranovPikus (BAP), and D'yakonovPerel' (DP) mechanisms as well as hyperfine interactions, have been well established to describe spin relaxation and dephasing dynamics. However, the relative importance of these mechanisms strongly depends on material design and temperature as well as carrier concentration and so on. Previous investigations in literature show that the BAP mechanism dominates the spin relaxation at low temperatures for bulk GaAs [2, 3] and GaAs/AlGaAs quantum wells (QWs) [4, 5], whereas DP mechanism dominates spin relaxation in other regimes. However, recent reexaminations using the microscopic kinetic spin Bloch equation approach [6–9] have revealed that the BAP mechanism is much less important than DP mechanism for intrinsic IIIV group semiconductors, even at low temperatures. The DP mechanism resulting from spinorbit coupling in systems lacking inversion symmetry, such as zincblende structure or asymmetric confining potentials in QWs, has a spin relaxation rate inversely related to the momentum scattering rate [9]. Electron spin relaxation in GaAs QWs has been experimentally studied through temperature [10, 11] and QW width dependence [10–12], and DP mechanism has been revealed to dominate spin relaxation in intrinsic QWs at high temperatures [10]. The oscillatory spin dynamics study for twodimensional electron gas (2DEG) at low temperatures also demonstrated the dominance of DP mechanism in the weak momentum scattering regime [13]. The observed enhancement of spin relaxation time resulting from electronelectron scattering in ndoped GaAs/AlGaAs QW agrees with DP mechanism governed by electronelectron scattering as well [14–17]. The experimental observation of electron spin relaxation time maximum for temperaturedependent study in a highmobility GaAs/AlGaAs 2DEG has also revealed the importance of electronelectron Coulomb scattering [18].
The spinorbit (SO) coupling leads to a strong momentumdependent mixing of spin and orbitalmomentum eigenstates, so that scattering processes change spin and orbital angular momentum, and therefore contribute to spin relaxation accordingly [19–21]. For electrons in twodimensional semiconductor heterostructures or QWs, the Rashba SO coupling due to structure inversion asymmetry and the Dresselhaus SO coupling due to bulk inversion asymmetry in the compounds cause electron spin relaxation and decoherence through spin precession of carriers with finite crystal momentum k in the effective kdependent crystal magnetic field of an inversionasymmetric material. Therefore, spin relaxation and decoherence studies in semiconductors have revealed important physics of SO coupling. Since carrier spin relaxation is related to several competing mechanisms and particularly different materials and structural designs, different SO coupling is involved to spin relaxation processes. Thus, the experimental investigation of spin relaxation and its dependence on temperature and carrier density have been found to vary widely between different samples. In this study, we have designed two GaAs/AlGaAs QWs with different structural symmetries. The spin relaxation time is measured to be much shorter for the asymmetrically designed GaAs/AlGaAs QW comparing with the symmetrical one, indicating the strong effect of Rashba SO coupling on spin relaxation. The comprehensive studies of temperature and carrier density dependence of spin relaxation time for both samples have revealed that electron spin relaxation in GaAs/AlGaAs QWs is governed mainly by DP mechanism in the entire temperature regime. The spin relaxation time exhibits nonmonotonic behavior for both temperature and photoexcited carrier density dependence, revealing the important role of nonmonotonic temperature and density dependence of electronelectron Coulomb scattering. Our experimental observations demonstrate good agreement with recently developed spin relaxation theory based on microscopic kinetic spin Bloch equation approach [6–9].
Experimental details
In our timeresolved magnetoKerr rotation measurement, a Ti:Sapphire laser system (Chameleon Ultra II, Coherent Inc., USA) provided 150 fs pulses with repetition rate of 80 MHz. The pump beam with central wavelength ranging from 770 to 860 nm was incident normal to the sample, while probe beam was at an angle of about 30° to the surface normal. The polarization of the pump beam was adjusted to be circularly polarized and the probe beam was linearly polarized. The sample was mounted within a Janis closedcycle optical cryostat, which is located inbetween two poles of an electromagnet. After reflection from sample, the Kerr rotation signal was detected by a sensitive optical bridge and lockin amplifier. The photoluminescence (PL) measurements have been first performed at wide temperature range to check the sample's quality and identify the bandedge energies for the specially designed samples.
Results and discussion
When temperature further increases, electronphonon scattering will then strengthen and become comparable to electronelectron scattering, eventually dominate the spin relaxation process; thus, spin relaxation time decreases with further rising temperatures. As a result, spin relaxation time shows a maximum. Considering the total electron density, n _{e} is the sum of optically excited carrier density and doping density (assuming fully ionized Si doping), the peak of temperaturedependent spin relaxation time is calculated to appear at about 59 and 140 K for the symmetric and asymmetric GaAs/AlGaAs QW samples under optically pumped electron density of 1.15 × 10^{11} cm^{2}, respectively. This, however, only agrees with the observed peak position for the symmetric sample. The inconsistence for the asymmetric sample may result from the uncertainty of the actual electron density.
Conclusions
In conclusion, the temperature and carrier densitydependent studies of spin relaxation time for modulationdoped GaAs/AlGaAs QWs have demonstrated a good agreement with recently developed spin relaxation theory based on microscopic kinetic spin Bloch equation approach. The spin relaxation time is measured to be much longer for the symmetrically designed GaAs QW comparing with the asymmetrical one, indicating the strong influence of Rashba SO coupling on spin relaxation. DP mechanism has been revealed to dominate spin relaxation for nmodulationdoped GaAs QWs in the entire temperature regime. Our experimental results provide further fundamental understanding of spin dynamics in modulationdoped heterostructures toward potential semiconductor spintronics application based on GaAs/AlGaAs material systems.
Abbreviations
 BAP:

BirAranovPikus
 DP:

D'yakonovPerel
 PL:

photoluminescence
 QW:

quantum wells
 SO:

spinorbit
 2DEG:

twodimensional electron gas.
Declarations
Acknowledgements
This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China under Grant Nos. 2011CB922200 and 2007CB924904; the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant Nos. 10974195 and 10734060.
Authors’ Affiliations
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